Brilliant Board Meetings – look back to move forward!

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Board Meeting Reflection

The best Boards we know are passionately committed to continual learning and improvement, starting in the boardroom.  Given the importance of Board meetings, it makes sense for everyone involved to review their effectiveness, at least a few times per year.  Including ‘review of meeting’ in the agenda, and making time for it, provides an opportunity for each participants in the meeting to offer their views on how well it achieved its objectives (which assumes the objectives were clear in the first place)! 

The question that needs to be asked is “If we could turn back time to 6 weeks ago, what would be done differently to make that meeting more effective?” and the Chair of the Board should lead the conversation by posing that question.  It may also be useful to share this Board Meeting Reflection Checklist.

Board Meeting Preparation

In our experience, a key element of meeting effectiveness is the preparation.  The best Board meetings we see are prepared by the Chair of the Board, in collaboration with the CEO/MD and the Company Secretary (if there is one).  We expect them to meet, semi-formally, between Board meetings, to catch up on progress with agreed actions, and to consider the key objectives of the next meeting and other future meetings.  The Governance Calendar should include priorities for each meeting scheduled for the next year (and those priorities are likely to evolve as the meeting date approaches).  There are several benefits to this:

  • It ensures clarity about the key issues to be dealt with at certain times
  • It manages the expectations of Board members
  • It enables managers to ensure that the papers to be considered by the Board are developed and quality checked to enable timely distribution before the meeting

A Chair’s Agenda is a very helpful tool to support the person chairing the meeting to remember the details, eg who to welcome to the meeting, who to invite to present a report, who to thank for particular pieces of work.

Focus of the Board Meeting

When preparing the agenda, it’s important to be clear about how to focus the energy of Board members.  When these capable people are together for only a few hours every few months, the Chair needs to ensure they don’t get side-tracked into operational details, but stay focused on what really matters to the Board.  A timebound agenda should help to steer through the list of items to be dealt with.

Some useful reading –

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